NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Opportunity zones added to Realtors® Property Resource

Bucks County
Morrisville hears $100M redevelopment plan

Chester County
Affordable homes subject of 2020 Citizen Planners meeting

Delaware County
Clifton Heights sues Upper Darby schools 

Montgomery County
Lower Pottsgrove schedules sneak peek at new township building plans 

Philadelphia County
Why new houses in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) aren’t made of brick 
 

 

News Briefs Archive July 22, 2019

 

General News

Pennsylvania offers property tax/rent rebate program for seniors
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue offers a property tax/rent rebate program benefitting eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older, widows and widowers age 50 and older, and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners or $15,000 for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. The program is one of five programs supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery, and it also receives funding from slots gaming. Application forms and assistance are available at no cost from Department of Revenue district offices, local agencies, senior centers and state legislators’ offices. See a full explanation of the program here.

State: Beware property tax rebate scams
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has issued a warning to residents to be cautious of a scam targeting seniors and people with disabilities through the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. The scam consists of unsolicited telephone calls from a person claiming to work for the Department of Revenue. The caller tells the resident that their application for the rebate program has been approved and then asks if the recipient would provide bank account information so that the rebate can be directly deposited into a bank account. The Department of Revenue does not collect applicants’ bank information over the phone and is stressing that residents should never give out personal information over the phone to unsolicited callers. If you or someone you know has received one of these scam calls and provided banking information or other personal information, immediately call the bank to report the potential fraud.
Source: Times Herald; 6/21/2019

HUD commits $330M to prop up ‘healthy’ housing
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has allocated $330 million in grants to clean up lead-based paint and other health and safety hazards in low-income housing. The grants will be provided through HUD’s Lead Hazard Reduction and Healthy Homes Production for Tribal Housing grant programs. “Your home is a haven from the outside world,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “You shouldn’t be worried about the hidden dangers that could affect you and your family.” Lead paint was banned from residential use in 1978. Still, HUD estimates that about 24 million homes built prior to that time still have significant lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust can cause several health problems — particularly in young children — such as learning disabilities, impaired hearing, and overall damage to the kidneys and central nervous system. To help identify places for the grant, HUD has added a category of cities and counties that have “high-impact neighborhoods” with an elevated concentration of pre-1940 housing, low-income families and a high rate of young children with elevated blood lead levels. HUD plans to award grants of up to $5 million each to control lead-based paint hazards in communities with large numbers of pre-1940 rental housing.
Source: Realtor Magazine; 7/1/2019

Bucks County

Falls to discuss proposed sewer lateral ordinance
Falls Township will hold a public information session regarding a proposed sewer lateral inspection ordinance. The ordinance would implement an inspection process for sewer service laterals upon transfer of properties in the township. The information session will take place at the Falls Township Building, 188 Lincoln Highway, Fairless Hills. No official action will be taken at the public information session. All interested individuals are invited to attend, which will be held on Monday, July 22, at 7 p.m., at the Falls Township building, 188 Lincoln Highway, Fairless Hills.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 7/8/2019

Bensalem votes to renew School Lane Charter School through 2023
The Bensalem Township School Board voted 5-4 to grant another charter for the School Lane Charter School. The new charter’s term will run retroactively from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2023. The school district had originally approved the School Lane charter in 1998, with renewals in 2003, 2008 and 2013. Pennsylvania state law requires public school boards to consider renewals for charter schools located within their boundaries every five years, though there is no requirement the new charter be granted the first year it’s up for renewal. School Lane Charter School has 1,300 students in grades K-12. It is open to students from all area school districts, but Bensalem residents get preference.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 7/9/2019

Bristol Council president insists on rules of order
Bristol Borough Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe recently had borough solicitor William Salerno read procedural rules for council meetings, which have been in effect since 1983. Due to recent disruptions, DiGuiseppe said he would start enforcing the six existing rules. The rules are:

  • All questions, comments and statements will be directed to the chairperson of council who will then decide whether to refer the question.
  • No personal attacks will be permitted against council persons or appointed officials.
  • The public is asked to make statements and comments succinct;
  • Though reluctant to impose any time limit on public comment, it is requested that the person “get to the point” and limit comments to 3 to 5 minutes;
  • Comments and questions should focus on matters before the council. If the matter is not within council’s jurisdiction, the discussion will be restricted
  • If a member of council or the public is being disruptive, the council president will strike the gavel and ask for order, and will ask for a recess if order is not restored.

Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 7/16/2019

Bucks towns receive tentative stormwater permits
Several Bucks County municipalities were tentatively granted state stormwater permit renewals with the intent to reduce pollutants in natural waterways. The preliminary Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit renewals were granted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and are a step in a years-long permitting process to reduce storm sewer pollution by at least 10% by 2023. The renewal process includes programs for public outreach and education about stormwater management projects. Tentative approval was granted to New Hope, New Britain Township, Penndel and Warwick. The MS4 program was established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 1990 and expanded to cover smaller municipalities about 10 years later. Noncompliance with the MS4 program can mean large federal fines or even criminal charges in rare instances, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.
Source: The Intelligencer; 7/5/2019

Chester County 

County unemployment rate is so low, industries face a ‘labor shortage’
Chester County’s unemployment rate is down to 2.6%, the lowest in the state, and workers are hard to come by, especially in the transportation and agriculture industries. “Recent data suggests that for every person looking for a job, there are two to three jobs available,” said Guy Ciarrocchi, chief executive of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry. There are employment opportunities in every sector — finance, nursing, technology and software development, customer service — but agriculture and transportation are seeing the greatest demand. There were 23,532 jobs posted online in Chester County in April, according to Patrick Bokovitz, director of the Chester County Department of Community Development. Chester County’s largest industry is agriculture, and about 24 percent of its total land area is used to grow field crops, such as wheat, corn and soybeans.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 6/27/2019

Opportunity knocking on Coatesville’s door
Having been designated as a federal Opportunity Zone, Coatesville could soon start to see some significant benefits. The zones are part of the Investing in Opportunity Act section of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Opportunity Zones could lead to millions of dollars in investments and development to revitalize once-thriving-but-now-struggling communities. Gary Smith, president and CEO of the Chester County Economic Development Council, believes this could help kickstart the city’s revitalization. “The Opportunity Zone is huge,” he said. “It’s going to be a transformational tool.”
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 6/21/2019                                                                                              

Exton Chamber is ‘excited about potential’ of its new space in mall
The Exton Region Chamber of Commerce (ERCC) recently celebrated its new office in Exton Square mall. The ERCC is a private nonprofit dedicated to improving the economic environment of the community, fostering the development of business growth and prosperity, advocating for sound public policy, and providing its members with outstanding programs and benefits. The ERCC’s new space, on the second floor of the mall, is three times as large as the previous storefront and provides the potential for more services for membership and the community. The Exton Region Chamber of Commerce is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Source: Vista Today; 7/2/2019

Downingtown school board adopts $226M budget
The Downingtown Area School Board unanimously approved a $226.3 million budget for the 2019-2020 school year without raising taxes. Although the expenses have increased 2.6% over the previous year, the real estate tax rate remains at 27.182 mills. Included in the budget this year is the implementation of a new student information system, Infinite Campus, which parents and students can utilize in the 2019-20 school year. The budget includes six new prevention specialists that are responsible for providing mental health support to the students, as well as two new armed guards for the middle schools.
Source: Daily Times; 7/10/2019

Devon Center Task Force hammers out zoning changes
The meeting room at the Hilltop House was packed as Easttown residents watched the task force formed to make recommendations for new zoning for the Devon Town Center district. A major sticking point in the deliberations has been the proposed change of zoning for the Devon Horse Show grounds from residential (R-3) to commercial. Lisa Thomas, of land-planning firm Glackin Thomas Panzak, suggested tabling the horse show from the discussion and removing it — at least for the moment — from the Devon Town Center district. The group also removed St. John’s Presbyterian Church. “Change is going to happen in this area whether we want it or not,” said Betsy Fadem, chair of Easttown Township supervisors and a member of the task force. “We’d rather have a framework that we all had discussed.” By the end of the meeting, the task force had agreed on recommending a 40-foot height limit for buildings and requiring 200-foot setbacks on the local roads. They would also encourage commercial uses for the ground floors of buildings with residential uses on the upper floors and pocket park or courtyard areas.
Source: Daily Local; 7/11/2019

Delaware County

Upper Chichester meeting for Realtors®
Upper Chichester Township is planning an informational meeting for Realtors®. Township officials will be on hand to discuss topics relevant to real estate and homeownership, such as Maplink, an interactive zoning map tool, new welcome packets for homeowners, Route 322 expansion and economic development. The meeting will take place on Monday, July 22, at 3 p.m. in the municipal building, 8500 Furey Road Extension, Boothwyn. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP online. 

Lansdowne implements ticket system for property maintenance
Lansdowne Borough has begun to enforce a new law known as “instant ticketing.” Those who violate the borough’s property maintenance code will be cited under the new system. Citizens will be subject to an instant $25 fine if they: improperly dispose or place trash for pick up, or allow high grass, weeds, junk or abandoned cars to litter their property. Residents who fail to remedy a violation may be subject to additional fines plus court costs. For more information, contact the borough’s code enforcement department at 610-623-7300, ext. 210.
Source: Lansdowne Borough; 6/2019

Radnor residents to see 3% school tax hike
At a special meeting, the Radnor Township School Board passed a $100.9 million general fund budget for 2019-2020. In order to make up for a shortfall, the board included about $545,000 worth of Act 1 exemptions granted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, $800,000 from the employer retirement rate stabilization fund, and about $293,000 from the unassigned fund balance. The new budget will require a 3% tax increase for a real estate tax levy of 24.9181 mills for each $1,000 of assessed valuation. This is a 0.7314 mill increase in the local real estate tax millage over 2018-2019 levels. A homeowner with a home assessed at $472,000 will pay an additional $345 in annual taxes.
Source: Daily Times; 7/1/2019

Chichester School Board OKs spending plan with no tax hike
The Chichester School Board unanimously adopted a 2019-2020 final operating budget totaling $79.7 million, reflecting no tax increase. Millage will remain at 39.8561 mills. A homeowner with a property assessed at $175,000 can expect to pay about $7,000 in real estate taxes, the same as last year.
Source: Daily Times; 6/27/2019

New hotel opens in downtown Chester
Chester City officials marked the opening of the new Candlewood Suites at Third and Welsh streets and the end of a decades-long absence of hotels in the downtown area. “The location was attractive because Kimberly-Clark was across the street … [Harrah’s] casino was in the area, and chemical companies,” said developer Sailesh “Sam” Patel, head of N.J.-based VB Hospitality LLC. Patel noted each of the industries draws guests or employees from out of state. “Chester is a fast-growing city. It’s close to Philadelphia — Philadelphia can only grow one way, which is outward,” he said.
Source: Daily Times; 6/22/2019

Montgomery County

Reports point to ‘vibrant real estate market’ in Montgomery County
Two news reports issued by the Montgomery County Planning Commission show the number of housing units built in 2018 was the highest number since 2007, while nonresidential construction in the county produced over 1 million square feet. The 2,673 housing units constructed in 2018 represent a strong housing market with the estimated taxable property value of the new units at approximately $349 million. “The housing market in Montgomery County continues to adapt to the needs of residents while finding an opportunity to grow,” said Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners. “The economic outlook for the county is strong, and these reports show that people and businesses want to invest and grow in Montgomery County.” Click here for the full press release.
Source: Montgomery County; 7/16/2019

Towamencin board to discuss village overlay update
Towamencin Township supervisors will hear an update on Wednesday, July 24, about a proposed ordinance amending the township’s Main Street village overlay district. The planning commission has been in discussions about the changes for the past 14 months and recently decided the changes are ready to come before the board of supervisors. The new overlay could allow more uses on currently undeveloped properties surrounding the intersection of Sumneytown Pike and Forty Foot Road. Township Manager Rob Ford stressed that this informational meeting is not a hearing, but rather “a consideration to advertise a hearing.” State law requires multiple public discussions before any zoning change is approved, said Ford. The supervisors will meet on Wednesday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the township administration building, 1090 Troxel Road. Visit www.towamencin.org for more information.
Source: The Reporter; 7/15/2019

Upper Moreland to consider tax changes
The Upper Moreland Township Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing to consider an ordinance repealing the Occupational Privilege Tax (OPT) ordinance and enacting a Local Services Tax (LST) ordinance. The OPT is a $10 tax on most people employed in the township, with some exceptions. The LST would be a $52 tax on most people employed within the township and would generate an estimated annual revenue of $450,000 to $475,000. A full text of the ordinance is available for public review at the township building during normal business hours. The hearing will be held at the township building, 117 Park Ave., Willow Grove.
Source: The Intelligencer; 7/11/2019

Hatfield Township to establish a ‘do not knock’ list
Hatfield Township commissioners will hold a meeting on Wednesday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the Hatfield Township Municipal Building, 1950 School Road, to consider an ordinance amending the township code pertaining to peddling and soliciting. The proposed ordinance would establish a “do not knock” list and regulations pertaining to same. A copy of the full text of the ordinance is available for public review at the township building during normal business hours.
Source: The Reporter 7/12/2019

Philadelphia

A thousand new homes are planned next to Graffiti Pier
More than 1,000 new homes could be coming to a massive vacant parcel between the Delaware River and Philadelphia’s Port Richmond neighborhood. The proposed 1,100-unit project at 2001 Beach St., just below Graffiti Pier, would include multifamily rental buildings at the western end of the site, followed by a diverse array of single-family townhomes as the development edges closer to the river’s edge. “This is an incredible project, it’s highly developed aesthetically, and it’s huge,” said Dan Garofalo, director of sustainability at the University of Pennsylvania and a longtime member of the Civic Design Review Board. “This could be 2,000 to 4,000 new people, a whole new voting precinct, a whole new neighborhood.” The 2001 Beach St. project is the latest major development planned along the Delaware in an area that was once lined with shipyards, factories and warehouses. If all the current projects are fully built out, almost 3,500 new housing units would be brought to the river’s shores.
Source: Plan Philly; 7/2/2019

Assessment notices miss deadline
About 30,000 Philadelphia property owners received assessment notices dated June 28 — three months after the March 31 deadline set by state law that requires assessors to set values for the following year. The Office of Property Assessment sends some late notices every year, said Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the city. Dunn said about 5,000 properties were “held for review” because the calculations used to revalue them based on trends in the market appeared off and could not be corrected before March 31. The other 25,000 properties were also reviewed and given new values due to recent construction or renovations. Dunn cited a state law that allows revisions to assessments “at any time in the year.” Adding to the confusion, the June 28 letter sent to property owners with new values listed May 24 as the deadline to file a first-level review of the property reassessment. Dunn said the May 24 date was an error and new letters will be sent correcting the deadline to be July 31 for property owners who got June notices. The 30,000 properties represent an $834 million net increase in assessed value and will result in $9.5 million in additional tax revenue for the city, according to an Inquirer analysis. Click here for the article.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 7/17/2019



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